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McConnell Floats Names of Failed Tea Party Candidates in Response to Bannon Threat

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated the names of several failed Tea Party candidates for the upper chamber in response to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's declaration of "war" on the GOP establishment.

“There’s a coalition coming together that is going to challenge every Republican incumbent except for Ted Cruz,” Bannon told Fox News' Sean Hannity last week. Over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit in D.C., Bannon similarly promised “a season of war on the GOP establishment.”

Asked about Bannon's war in a cabinet meeting on Monday, President Trump replied, "I know how he feels."

"Depends on who you're talking about. There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves. But most of them -- I tell you what, I know the Republican senators; most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard, and they want to do a great thing for the American public," Trump added. "But you had a few people that really disappointed us. They really, really disappointed us."

Later, at a Rose Garden press conference with McConnell by his side, Trump declared that "Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing."

"Some of the people that he may be looking at, I'm going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly, they're great people," the president added. "What Mitch will tell you is that, maybe with the exception of a few -- and that is a very small few -- I have a fantastic relationship with the people in the Senate, and with the people in Congress. I mean, I have a -- with our House of Representatives."

"...I like and respect most of them. And I think they like and respect me. Just so you understand, the Republican Party is very, very unified. When we get things approved, we have to go through hell, because we have no Democrat support. We have nobody. We don't have a vote from the Democrats."

McConnell noted that "the goal here is to win elections in November."

"Back in 2010 and 2012, we nominated several candidates, Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock. They're not in the Senate. And the reason for that was that they were not able to appeal to a broader electorate in the general election," he said alongside Trump. "My goal as the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate is to keep us in the majority. And the way you do that is not complicated. You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home."

Outside a closed caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill today, McConnell stressed that "with regard to the electoral process, let me just point out once again, we had an experience in 2010 and 2012 nominating candidates in primaries who couldn't win in the general election."

"Mention a few names for you: Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Rich Mourdock. What do they all have in common? They're in private life, and a Democrat is in the Senate," he said.

"So our goal is to nominate people who can actually win in November. It's important to remember that those who lose elections don't get to make policy. Only those who win elections actually get to make policy. And so our strategy going forward is to protect our incumbents and to help people who get nominated actually win elections, because that's the way to get to the change in America."